Lafayette man’s ‘Idol’ mishap goes viral
BY TIM BROUK • TBROUK@JCONLINE.COM • FEBRUARY 6, 2011
Inside Lafayette Beauty Academy, Tim Willy is known to bust out in song.
But to the nation, Willy is known as the young man who busted a television camera while attempting a round-off back handspring during auditions on “American Idol.”
The clip of Willy completing two flips but landing on a reclining camera man on the third has been a viral hit with more than 200,000 total views and has been repeated several times on recent “Idol” episodes and commercials.
The Lafayette, red-haired 20-year-old had made the cut during auditions in Milwaukee back in July. He was among the final 180 to be selected out of almost 12,000 potential singers.
“I have been waiting since July, diligently waiting to see if they would show the accident,” Willy said. “They showed the accident within the first minute of the premiere.”
Willy did receive a “golden ticket” but missed out on the Hollywood experience. But his 20-second clip and experience in Milwaukee has got him noticed. Willy said he has been “communicating” with Fox and may be brought back toward the end of the season. The clip has been repeated on multiple “Idol” episodes and commercials.
The tumbling incident on “Idol” sums up two of Willy’s passions. The Cedar Lake native is a trained gymnast and he had competed internationally.
“I once had the dream of being an Olympian. But those dreams were crushed in 2004 due to an injury,” Willy recalled. “I broke my arm and was diagnosed with a crippling nerve disease, RSD. Extensive therapy and treatment helped me to ‘recover.’ But life will never be the same. I will never compete again.”
But while he was training his body, Willy was training his voice by singing classically and in musical theater growing up. As with most of those who drive hours to try out for “Idol,” music is a passion for Willy.
“Music is my life,” Willy said. “Music overwhelms me like an uncontrollable OCD. I’m always belting it out, unintentionally. I hate to sound conceited, but I’m quite good.”
This musical love and confidence compelled Willy to drive four hours to Milwaukee. He had previously auditioned in Chicago in 2009 but didn’t get very far because he “was so nervous. I was inaudible when I sang.”
Milwaukee made for a much better story.
After hours of waiting and filling out paperwork, “Idol” producers had the final 180 in front of them. They asked if anyone had any special talents besides singing and Willy announced his gymnastic talents.
The infamous clip began to take shape as Willy was led to the front of the room. Producers and Willy discussed where to position the cameramen. One was ordered to lie down to shoot Willy flipping over him. With no time to do practice runs, Willy went for it.
” … One foot hit him in the face right above his lip. The other hit the $100,000-plus camera. It shattered,” Willy recalled. “The room gasped … and then cheered. I couldn’t resist laughing myself. I attempted to assist the man up but he was pretty angry at first. He went out into the hallway. The camera man was not seriously injured, nor myself. I talked to him after a while, and he said that he wasn’t angry. He was actually thrilled that he was going to have the opportunity to get from behind the camera and be on the show. He also said that he participates in high-risk filming and nothing could top the tumbling accident.
“This was all any contestant or producer could talk about.”
While the accident brought him TV time and online fame from TMZ and other outlets, Willy believes the incident got him cut, too. Out of the last 180, only about 50 were selected to really go to Hollywood. And over half of those were the “joke” participants.
“I got screwed but it’s OK since I’ve got some recognition out of it,” Willy said.
His fellow students at Lafayette Beauty Academy said Willy breaking out into song is common while in the salon area.
“We hear him sing every single day,” said Alyssa Morris. “He sings anything on the radio or over the radio or whatever is on his iPod.”
Willy’s voice can fill a room but he lowers the volume at the academy, most of the time.
“He usually sings to himself,” said Dani Davis. “I think he is so good. … He’s really fun and really friendly and always talks to us.”
Willy hopes to try out for “Idol” again.
“I want to be famous for my singing and not for breaking a guy’s face,” he said.
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